Commentary: Thinking alternatives to Grayson
Recently, Glendale laudably adopted a unanimous resolution in support of the United Nations’ Paris Agreement by joining the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, agreeing to take local action on climate change. Glendale’s leadership is part of a broader wave of renewed leadership on climate change from cities. Thirteen cities in California — and more than 50 nationwide — have committed to 100% clean energy.
Neighboring Los Angeles is currently developing its own plan to eliminate fossil fuels as well. At the same time, utilities in California are quickly pivoting away from fossil fuel power plants. While Glendale moves beyond coal, Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power are all rethinking their dependency on gas. For example, PG&E and SCE both announced plans in December to replace gas plants with energy storage and clean energy.
With the wave of bold commitments, declining costs of alternatives to fossil fuels, and increasing urgency to slow climate change, many Glendale residents and environmentalists are asking hard questions about Glendale Water & Power’s plans to spend an estimated $500 million to expand the Grayson power plant. The utility’s plans will lead to increased greenhouse gas and particulate emissions, according to the project’s draft environmental impact report. It is important to highlight some of those concerns in greater detail ahead of the Jan. 23 Glendale City Council meeting where alternatives to Grayson expansion are expected to be publicly discussed.
It appears that many of the environmental concerns outlined in the DEIR run contrary to the visionary promise of the Paris Agreement. In short, the Grayson proposal would increase emissions and particulates that would adversely affect our climate and potentially impact the health of children at Benjamin Franklin Elementary, Mark Keppel Elementary and the Disney Children’s Center, as well as elderly residents of nearby Pelanconi Estates. The DEIR predicts global warming emissions will increase nearly seven-fold. This is the equivalent to 90,000 additional cars on Glendale’s roads.
Clearly, an expense as large as the Grayson project would impact utility bills to pay for the polluting facility.
As recently proposed by Councilman Zareh Sinanyan, Glendale residents and ratepayers deserve that alternatives be thoroughly examined separately and independently from the Grayson EIR process. Given the severity of the environmental concerns and the cost involved with Grayson it can be argued that a multipronged renewables portfolio would be less expensive to implement and would meet California’s increasingly stringent emissions requirements.
Further, Grayson sits on a known earthquake liquefaction zone, subject to major gas line leaks and ruptures in the event of an earthquake greater than magnitude 7.0. This belies GWP’s rationale that centralizing power at Grayson is needed to maintain energy security in the event of a major incident such as an earthquake. A robust and varied renewables portfolio would mitigate this risk. Incentivizing residential and commercial solar throughout the city will also reduce emissions. Thus far, Glendale has not exploited demand-response methodologies to shift use from high-demand times, such as time-of-use pricing and HVAC direct-load control programs. There are alternatives that warrant attention and now is the time to evaluate them.
There is also a legislative proposal on the horizon that would increase the renewable portfolio standard by 50% by 2030 and set a standard of zero carbon electricity by 2045. This would force GWP to mothball a new plant since the DEIR’s analysis assumes the proposed fossil-fuel-based equipment would have a 30-year lifespan.
We have an ever-increasing mountain of evidence that we must take climate change seriously and do everything in our power to mitigate its impacts. A thorough and robust discussion on the future of Grayson is a prudent and important step. To that end, we strongly encourage the city of Glendale to work with independent energy experts to identify a 100% clean alternative plan to Grayson so that there can be a fully informed debate on what is the best approach to meet our city’s current and future energy needs.
Susana Reyes is a Glendale resident and longtime leader of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter. She is the current vice president of the Sierra Club (National). Anthony Portantino is the state senator representing the 25th Senate District, which includes Glendale and many foothill cities.